Monday, December 1, 2008

Milk and the Anti-Gay Agenda

I watched Milk this past weekend and couldn't help but to be struck by similarities between the late 1970s and now with respect to the LGBT rights movement. As a community, we've made much progress since Anita Bryant's anti-gay crusades back then. If you don't know or don't remember, that woman made quite a tear through the nation back in the day- one of her major "accomplishments" was her instrumental role in the passage of Florida's ban on adoption by gay and lesbian parents. Yet still, 30 years later, our movement must continue to battle Quixotic crusaders bent on blaming minority groups for the destruction of two things our nation holds dear: children and families.

While accusing gay rights advocates of letting an agenda get in the way of society's best interest, these crusaders fail to see that their claim is nothing but a projection of their own major shortcoming. In short, it is their religious-based anti-gay agenda which damages society, much more than it saves, preserves, or benefits it. According to the Florida Department of Children and Families, there are almost 2,000 children in the state who "desperately need adoptive families." These kids have a right to be raised by good, loving, fit parents- even if these parents are gay or lesbian- and no one but Anita Bryant and her inaccurately-named "pro-family" ilk are to blame for taking this right away from children.

Recently, a Florida lower court declared the state's ban on gay adoption to be unconstitutional. Although this court decision is good news, it was made by a trial court and, therefore, does not end the ban in Florida. In all likelihood, the case will go the state Supreme Court, where many predict that it could be overturned. This ban is an unfortunate relic of Anita Bryant's gay-baiting "Save the Children" crusade of the 1970s during the life of Harvey Milk. Today, the ban persists even though every major credible professional organization that could possibly have something to say about Florida's gay adoption ban opposes the ban on the grounds that there is no credible research basis for it. Today, the State of Florida has a duty to uphold this legislative ban and can only do so by bringing in discredited fringe "researchers" who confuse their religious beliefs and "common sense" with scientific fact. That is a travesty to our legal system, to science, and to the real best interests of children and society.

In response to the Florida case, Steve Chapman of the Chicago Tribune wrote an excellent piece arguing that the real agenda when it comes to gay adoption bans is the anti-gay agenda. If anything is harming children it is "efforts to combat the 'homosexual agenda'"- efforts that "mainly serve to harm children in dire need of stable, loving families." Categorically banning gay people from adoption does not allow adoption agencies to determine "the best interests of the child" on a case-by-case basis. Rather, it absolutely denies many people who are capable of being good, fit parents from adopting children who need good, stable homes. Chapman continues that "Gays are treated as more dangerous than felons, drug offenders and known child abusers—none of whom is categorically barred from adopting." Again, such a ban just doesn't help the children or society.

This Florida court decision has already activated another round of Activist Judge (tm) bleating in the oogedy-boogedy rightwing blogosphere. For once, I wish these people would stop their ignorant knee-jerks and actually think about the best interests of children rather than their own myopic anti-gay agendas. For too long we have stood by while this anti-gay crowd has let its anti-gay agenda pass for concern for children. The jig is up.

The various anti-gay "family" groups and individuals promoting these bans need to realize that this issue isn't about them. It's not about the gay "agenda" or their agenda. It really is about the kids. And, as Chapman recounts "The Florida ban is simple and stark. It says, in effect, that a child may not be adopted by gays even when the adoption is in the best interest of the child. That's the main reason the court overturned it: It violates the rights of children and 'causes harm to the children it is meant to protect.'"

That's right. The ban that Anita Bryant helped pass under her "Save the Children" banner causes harm to children and violates their rights and not a single one of the anti-gay "family values" groups gives a damn about that. Instead they continue to stick their fingers in their ears, close their eyes, and sentimentally holler "but but but all children need a mommy and a daddy" as loudly and as often as they can. No matter what the evidence says, no matter how many actual experts oppose these bans, these people continue to mistake their intuitive "common sense" for fact. And this is where they need to listen up- Your "Christian common sense" does not constitute society's universal truth- especially when your "common sense" is contradicted by evidence.

See, the Anita Bryants of today know that it's not acceptable to hate gay people anymore, and so more than ever, they frame their arguments in Bryant's "save the children" "love the sinner, hate the sin" lingo. I appreciate the "love the sinner, hate the sin" sentiment. Really, I do. If these people sincerely believe that they are acting out of love, then that is certainly better than hatred. Yet by convincing themselves that they're not haters and bigots, they just care about kids a whole bunch, they perpetuate our oppression with the approval of their own consciences. And that sort of tyranny, we all know, is the most dangerous type of all.

As long as Dobson, Morse, Barber, Gallagher, and every other modern-day version of Anita Bryant allow themselves to oppress us with the approval of their own consciences, while carrying their "Save the Children" banner, we will never realize full equality.

Recently, as part of its anti-gay agenda, the Family Council Action Committee was instrumental in promoting an Arkansas ban on adoption by unmarried co-habitating couples that was targeted at same-sex couples. In doing so, this organization said that children should "never be used to promote the social or political agenda of any special interest group." While this group's intention was to imply that it is gays who are using children to promote a certain agenda, it is clear that it is usually those claiming to promote family, traditional, and Christian values who need to take this lesson to heart more than anyone else.

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